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Concord was established as the first Massachusetts town settled above the tidewater, where the Assabet and Sudbury rivers join to form the Concord River. Its natural advantages also inspired its most famous residents, the transcendentalist writers of the nineteenth century. Now an elite suburb of Boston, Concord retains much of its natural beauty despite intense development pressure.

In 1635, the village of Musketaquid was purchased from the Massachusetts tribe and renamed Concord. The town enjoyed steady growth during the seventeenth century, being little affected by King Phillip's War. The following century saw Concord establish itself as an affluent regional center with a nuclear settlement along Lexington Road and farms near its various rivers. The town's central importance in advance of the Revolution culminated in the famous fight at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775, that launched American independence.

The second quarter of the nineteenth century marked another key moment in the history of the town. West Concord emerged as an industrial focus of the community around Damon's Mill (1834), where domet, a composite of cotton warp and wool filling, was invented as a substitute for linsey-woolsey. In 1844, the Fitchburg Railroad arrived to reinforce the early industries and to convert the town's agriculture to an export focus. The development of the Concord grape by Ephriam Bull in 1854 brought further prosperity and fame to the community. And the coalescing of a group of transcendentalist writers and philosophers—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Ellery Channing, and Bronson and Louisa May Alcott—beginning in the 1830s made Concord an intellectual center of national importance.

By the 1870s, Concord Center began its transformation from commercial village to wealthy suburb, with West Concord retaining an industrial focus. Middle-class houses and upper-class estates began to claim new streets near the center and old farms beyond. The establishment of the Massachusetts State Prison in West Concord in 1878 continued the division of Concord into pretty and gritty zones. Both areas became more unified in the opening decades of the twentieth century as residential real estate development at all economic levels exploded, somewhat controlled by Concord's adoption of one of the state's first zoning bylaws in 1921. While embracing the future, the town also celebrated the past, as the Colonial Revival style continued as the dominant mode for residential and commercial development, joined with the restoration of the substantial survival of earlier buildings. Between 1940 and 1980, the town's population more than doubled as it joined the expansion of the metropolitan commuting network facilitated by the highways, especially Route 2, that served the community.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan

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